Maiden Speech


J. BULL (Sunbury) — First may I join with other members of the house in congratulating you on your election to Speaker of the house, and in doing so acknowledge what an incredible feat you have achieved. In your opening remarks to the house in December 2014 you spoke of being passionate about this Parliament. You spoke of your passion for democracy, for the rule of law and for human rights — things that we all value highly but that you yourself hold in especially high regard after experiencing the loss of them in Uruguay in 1973. Speaker, your appointment is an achievement to be proud of after many years of dedication and hard work. In addition to this, I believe it also sends a powerful message — to the wider community, across the state and beyond our shores — that Victoria and Australia are places of opportunity, hope and fairness.

Just 237 years ago Captain James Cook arrived on the shores of Botany Bay, beginning the first European settlement. However, not until 1851, when gold was first discovered in Victoria, did our state suddenly boom in one of the largest gold rushes the world has ever seen. The gold rush, whilst bringing prosperity to many, also led to cramped fields, terrible working conditions and an outbreak of disease. In 1854 tempers flared with the rebellion of goldminers at Ballarat, and the battle of the Eureka Stockade took place between miners and colonial forces. Although the miners were defeated, there was mass public support for them and widespread criticism of the handling of the situation by colonial forces, giving rise to the Electoral Act 1856. The act gave white males the vote in elections to the lower house of this place, the Victorian Parliament, and here the seeds of democracy were sown.

However, as we all know, the Australian story is much longer and greater than this short period of time. Australia is home to one of the longest continuous cultures in the world. It is the land of the Indigenous Aborigines, who have inhabited this place for 50 000 years. They have a deep and diverse culture, rich with art, tradition and language. I wish to pay my respects to the traditional owners of the land, both past and present, and acknowledge that rich culture which has existed for so long across this great country.

It is a great honour to speak today for the first time as the inaugural member for Sunbury. The electorate of Sunbury is made up of a number of diverse communities, and today I wish to thank and acknowledge the great people of Gladstone Park, Gowanbrae, Tullamarine, Westmeadows, Bulla, Diggers Rest and Sunbury for electing me as their first member for Sunbury and for electing an Andrews Labor government. We will not let you down.

Sunbury is my home town. It is a place very close to my heart and an area steeped in history. Three pioneers — George Evans and brothers Samuel and William Jackson — founded the town of Sunbury in 1836, after setting out from Melbourne, 40 kilometres away. It is thought by most that the Jackson brothers named the township after Sunbury on the Thames in England. For sporting fans, Sunbury is a special place indeed — it is the birthplace of the Ashes, following a social game of cricket between Australia and England at Rupertswood mansion.

The electorate of Sunbury is also home to Melbourne’s gateway, and one of the largest employers in the state — Melbourne Airport. I am thrilled to have Melbourne Airport in my electorate, and I look forward to working closely with the CEO, the stakeholders and of course the many residents who work at Tulla every day, putting in the hard yards.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all members in the house, and those in the other place, for being part of the 58th Victorian Parliament. In doing so I acknowledge the family, friends and great support networks we all have and that helped to get us here. To my parliamentary colleagues on this side of the house, I would like to congratulate you for an outstanding campaign that showed true discipline, determination and a real vision. In particular, I would like to congratulate my great friend, and the Government Whip, the member for Yuroke. She will make a great whip and be a tremendous representative for her local area.

I would like to acknowledge the outstanding effort by the Premier and reiterate the sentiments of many members on this side of the house who have reflected on his efforts not only in 2014 but over the course of opposition since 2010. The Premier has already shown that his vision, determination and commitment to put people first will once again make Victoria the place to be.

Being the first member for Sunbury is a great honour; however, the area has been extremely well represented by my predecessors, Liz Beattie and Jo Duncan. Indeed, it was Liz and her late husband, Chris, who 15 years ago invited me along to a meeting of the Sunbury branch of the Labor Party. The invitation came about after I had decided that doing work experience with my local member of Parliament would be a great opportunity. I had no idea what it was going to be about. Little did I know where it would lead me and that one day I would have the opportunity to represent the area that I love so much. In so many ways though this is the story of the Labor Party: the opportunity to go from work experience kid to MP. I thank Liz for her contribution to this great state and for her hand in developing this young man’s passion for fairness, equality and democracy.

In politics very little is achieved by an individual. You need great friends and a strong support network behind you to make it happen. I wish to thank the outstanding team at Victorian Labor headquarters who assisted my campaign in every way possible and did an outstanding job throughout 2014. These dedicated and passionate staff worked hard to ensure that a great Labor victory was possible. In particular I wish to thank state secretary Noah Carroll and assistant state secretaries Stephen Donnelly and Kosmos Samaras for their tireless work. Kosmos has been a great friend for many years and his political guidance and wisdom is unmatched.

I also wish to thank former mayor of Hume, Casey Nunn, and close mate Paul Caruso. They have been there for me since day one, and I would like to acknowledge their great friendship and terrific contribution to my campaign and to the Labor movement in the north. I would also like to thank my colleague and federal member for McEwen, Rob Mitchell, MP, for his strong representation in the area.

In truth, I wish I could be standing here alongside my extraordinary campaign team who have given me so much support. To my campaign manager, Peter Hendrickson, a former school principal at Melton, Viewbank and Sunbury colleges. whom I pulled out of a peaceful retirement, I say thank you for your experience, wisdom and friendship. I would also like to thank my campaign field organiser, Renee Pope-Munro, whom the member for Macedon recently described as ‘a wrangler of volunteers’. I thank Renee for her outstanding work. Her passion and dedication are unmatched. I also wish to thank Jarrod, Michaela and Adam in the electorate office for their outstanding efforts. Thank you to the Sunbury and Gladstone Meadows branch members and countless volunteers. Each phone call, doorknock and chat on a street corner took us one step closer to winning the seat of Sunbury.

I would like to thank my parents, Ian and Lesley Bull, my brother David, sister Kirstin and extended family. From an early age my parents taught us the value of hard work, of being involved in your community and the importance of a fair go. They worked hard to provide us with the best opportunities and always reminded us of how fortunate we were to live in such a great country.

Finally, I would like to thank my best friend, and as of last Sunday my fiancée, Jasmine. She came into my life three years ago and has been an inspiration and given me strength ever since. I cannot thank Jasmine enough for everything she has done for me. Thanks also to Jasmine’s grandfather, William, who taught her from the moment that she could think about the Labor cause, instilling in her an unshakable sense of fairness and equality.

Before entering Parliament I began my working life at 14 as a grocery boy, a duty manager at Woolworths and then an environmental educator at the Gould League, before going on finish my studies and become a science and maths teacher. I chose a career in teaching because I believe education to be paramount in providing opportunity. There is no reason why each and every child in Victoria should not have high aspirations, regardless of their back story or perceived future. We as a community are charged with helping our youth to be the best they can be, and we need to be the hand-up they need when they fall, because this is the Labor way. It was the great Nelson Mandela who once said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’

Throughout my life, I have developed a strong passion for the improvement of disability services. My mother worked as an integration aide for over 12 years, and I have some very clever and wonderful friends who also have a serious disability. I am committed to seeing disability services improved for all Victorians, and I urge the federal government to fully fund the national disability insurance scheme. As is so often said, the mark of a good government is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.

I look forward to delivering on Labor’s commitments in Sunbury, and it was great to join the Premier in August last year at my former high school, Sunbury College, to announce $3 million dollars to build a much-needed new science wing. I also look forward to working with the Minister for Roads and Road Safety to build noise barriers for Gowanbrae as part of our $10 million commitment, and with the Minister for Public Transport on improving bus services across the electorate. Sunbury residents will also greatly benefit from the Melbourne Metro rail plan. This vital project will revolutionise our train network and ensure that our world-class city has a world-class public transport system.

One thing in particular that I am determined to work on in Sunbury is youth mental health. Our community has recently been tragically touched by a number of youth suicides. An Andrews Labor government is already addressing the issue, and we are building a world-class mental health research facility in Parkville. As the local member I will be doing everything I can to support and assist the young people in our community, from establishing a youth advisory council to working alongside mental health professionals and investigating the rising use of ice.

In closing, I look forward to working closely with all members of the house over many years for the betterment of Sunbury and for the betterment of Victoria. I commit myself to representing the views of my constituency to the best of my ability, and I am humbled, honoured and above all privileged to be serving as part of an Andrews Labor government.